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COVID-19 - Reliable Information Resources: Fighting Misinformation

Update 7-27-20: Monmouth University has just published its reopening plan for fall 2020 --- check frequently for updates. 

As with any major news story -- especially high-stakes, complex stories in which facts are still developing --  false information ("fake news") is a problem. Fraud and hoaxes, misinformation and disinformation can be spread in a variety of ways, from simple human error to deliberate attempts to sow fear and confusion. This page will help you learn to spot COVID-19 misinformation and direct you to resources tracking and exposing related fraud and hoaxes. Visit the Media Literacy & Misinformation research guide to learn more about misinformation and explore tips and tools.

Misinformation Roundup

News organizations and others have been collecting and debunking hoaxes and misinformation surrounding COVID-19. Note: search both "coronavirus" and "COVID-19" for latest updates.

AFP Fact Check

BuzzFeed News - first hoaxes & disinformation

BuzzFeed News - latest hoaxes

FactCheck.org

FEMA

Forbes

Lead Stories

Media Matters

New Jersey Dept. of Homeland Security

News Guard

News Literacy Project

Politifact

Snopes

WHO Myth Busters

Cyber Crime

Reporting the Story

ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, has assembled a team dedicated to accurate news reporting on COVID-19 as it affects the U.S., and is reaching out to the public for input. Click here for more information.

CDC Symptom Checker Tool

The CDC, in conjunction with Microsoft, has developed a COVID-19 symptom checker tool designed to assist users in learning more about the virus' known symptoms, and to facilitate discussions with health providers. As with all such tools, it is not to be used to make diagnoses or prescribe medical treatment.

Saving the Data

As web platforms try to stay on top of misinformation related to COVID-19, a group of scholars and nonprofits has contacted them requesting that they preserve data on content that they've removed during the course of the pandemic. Such data should prove valuable for future study.

Searching for Answers

"In the absence of new, vetted information, reckless speculation takes its place, muddling our conception of the truth."

 

- Charlie Warzel, New York Times technology columnist 

 

Source: NYTimes.com

SIFT it!

 

Learn to recognize misinformation using the SIFT assessment method developed by digital literacy expert Michael Caulfield, director of blended and online learning at Washington State University. Click here learn more!

Fact Check

Five quick ways to double-check online information

  1. If a story is too good to be true, it probably is. False and misleading stories spread like wildfire because lies can be more appealing than the truth.
  2. Use reverse image search to verify pictures. Real photographs that have not been edited at all can get reshared to fit a new narrative and spread misinformation. There are several reverse image search tools including Google Reverse Image Search. To begin, go to images.google.com, click the camera icon, and either paste in the URL for an onine image, upload an image from your hard drive, or drag an image from another window. Click here and scroll down for more image search tools.
  3. Use thumbnail images to verify videos. You can take several thumbnail images from any video and use reverse image search to check whether it's been posted online before. (Use Amnesty International's new extraction tool.)
  4. Not all research is created equal. Always check with official sources (click here for some suggestions.) Just because something has a chart or a table doesn't mean it's true.
  5. Use geolocation to double-check places. Good observation skills and oniine searching can quickly check the location of a photo or video. Click here for more information; get started here.

Source: First Draft News

Facebook Superspreaders

NewsGuard, a nonprofit that fact checks and rates news stories, has implemented a new feature listing Facebook pages that have most frequently linked to debunked COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories.

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Dubbed the "super-spreader" list, it is continuously updated and actively solicits user input. NewsGuard plans to implement similar lists for YouTube and Twitter in the near future -- stay tuned.

Who Spreads Misinformation?

BBC News has been studying COVID-19 misinformation trends over the last few months, and has developed a list of seven types of people who start or spread viral misinformation:

  • Jokers - Pranksters looking to attract attention
  • Scammers - People seeking to profit 
  • Politicians - Attempting to seem "in control" and/or manipulate public opinion
  • Conspiracy Theorists - Attempting to make sense of a chaotic situation
  • "Insiders" - People falsely professing to have inside knowledge
  • Relatives/Friends - Unwittingly sharing unvetted information due to fear/anxiety
  • Celebrities - Those with a popular following who follows/reacts to whatever they say

Proceed with Caution

A new report published by computer science/law expert Woodrow Hartzog and a team of experts finds that while the pandemic has led to welcome advancements in video conferencing technology and a plethora of health-tracking apps, those same technological improvements include significantly increased opportunities for data collection, exposure and misuse. Users in search of the latest health information or just a human connection are being victimized by an ever more sophisticated data mining infrastructure. The worst part, says Hartzog, is some of these apps are very difficult to extricate yourself from. This isn't the last you'll be hearing about this. 

Talking Misinformation with Friends & Family

Friends and family -- like most people -- want to share truthful information. Here's what to do if you find they are spreading misinformation and need to step in and correct them:

  • Be empathetic. Remember, most folks are just trying to help.
  • Cite authoritative sources. Choose a source that the person trusts.
  • Talk one-on-one. Do not inadvertently shame people by correcting them in public settings.
  • "Pre-bunk." Get people thinking about accuracy and sources by providing them with authoritative sources and/or opening a personal discussion before they share misinformation.
  • Don't hesitate. Remember, in this situation, passing along inaccurate information can have a direct impact on someone's health, and on the strength of our community ties. Don't let misinformation go unaddressed.

Source: CNN.com

Big Tech COVID-19 Response

-updated 7-25-20-

  • "Big tech"  companies - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube in particular - have strengthened protocols for harmful and misleading information as of March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether these protocols remain in force permanently remains to be seen, but in this uncertain and difficult time, it is a welcome change. Update: Beginning April 2020, YouTube will insert fact checks near "informational" videos hosted on its U.S. platform. Organizations like Factcheck.org and Politifact are among those participating in the initiative. Beginning May 2020, Twitter is adding labels and warning messages on some tweets with disputed or misleading information about COVID-19; the labels will provide links to further information. Users of the platform can expect to see this type of approach applied to other other topics going forward.
  • As of mid-April 2020, Facebook is rolling out new protocols designed to curb spread of COVID-19 misinformation on the platform, including posting warnings about key debunked stories to all user newsfeeds. They are also "reducing" the distribution of stories rated "false" by in-house fact-checkers, attaching warning labels and providing additional context. The most promising tactic looks to be a program that issues a warning to people who have posted "harmful misinformation" and redirects them to the WHO's COVID-19 misinformation hub.

Tweeting Doctors

 

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The medical community has fought back against misinformation on a number of fronts, including social media platforms like Twitter. Strategies include using algorithms to "surface" correct information and posting across multiple formats.